Today, people are finding themselves in a longer and longer commute to get from home to work and back. People living near major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Washington, DC, or LA find themselves in a long commute; for many it is well over 1 hour each way. This equates to at least 2 hours a day of lost productivity. However, there are many things you can do to both occupy your time, and remain productive during your daily commute.
The first thing you can do is very much common sense, purchase and use a smart phone. A smart phone, such as a Blackberry or an IPhone, allows you to not only make phone calls but also send and receive emails, stay organized with an electronic calendar and address book, and many allow you to browse the internet too. If you are a passenger in a car or train during your commute, you can really make the most of your smart phone by reading and replying to all of your business emails, reviewing your calendar events for today and the next day, and browse the internet to stay up to date on business matters.
Voice to Text Dictation
If you are a driver during your commute, obviously your use of your smart phone during your commute is much more limited due to safety reasons. However, there are applications you can install on your smart phone that make them very usable while still maintaining safety while you drive. Vlingo is a smart phone application that gives you hands free, voice activated control over your phone. Most smart phones do have some sort of a rudimentary voice activated interface built in. However, Vlingo is in a class all by itself; it allows you to compose and send an email, SMS text message, voice memo file, or notepad file by simply speaking out loud. Vlingo will capture anything you say, much like dictation, and convert it to text in a fairly accurate manner. During our hour-long commute, we’ve been able to compose and reply to business emails in an easy and safe manner. Additional features include the ability to easily call anyone in your address book or place manual calls – all by voice, and the ability to query your internet search engine by voice.
Another similar voice-to-text program it is available only for the IPhone. Dragon is an IPhone / IPad application that is designed to receive your voice dictation and convert it to a text file. Although the features are not as robust as Vlingo, Dragon does give you the basic tools to turn your voice to text.
Besides the obvious use of being able to compose and replied to text messages and email, voice to text applications also allow you other flexible options to enhance your productivity. If you are the kind of person that constantly thinks about their business to-do list, or new business ideas, or are trying to solve a problem in your mind, you can use these voice to text applications to convert those precious thoughts to text for either later review, or for later revising to be sent via email or published. Also, if you are an writer such as a traditional book author or a blogger, you can use these voice-to-text applications on your commute to actually create content for your next article or blog post. We had actually been able to create large portions of this website through dictation by using a voice-to-text applications, including the dictation of this specific article.
Another great productivity, hands free enhancement tool is “drivesafe.ly”. This smart phone application will convert any SMS text message or email you receive on your smart phone from text to voice and will read them out loud to you. This is very handy once again, if you are driving during your commute. This will allow you to be able to hear all of your text messages and emails that are in your smart phones inbox all while still being able to maintain both the eyes on the road and both hands on the steering wheel.
Blogs and podcasts allow you a way to stay up to date with items that interest or entertain you. Additionally, many blogs and podcasts cover industry related topics, general business topics, and even sometimes topics specific to your business niche. You can subscribe to blogs and podcasts right from your smart phone or mobile device and read or listen to them while commuting. Podcasts are especially handy in that some smart phones such as the Blackberry, allow you to stream them live from the Internet right to your Blackberry. Other smart phones such as the IPhone, allow the wireless downloading of podcasts right to your IPhone via either WI-FI or 3G networks. Additionally, an IPhone application called RSS Player, allows for the seamless, wireless, connectivity, download and playback of all of your podcasts without ever having to use the iTunes interface. We often listen to a variety of technology, computing, business and world news podcasts that are just unavailable even on satellite radio. The best thing, is that all of the podcasts we subscribe to are completely free. Many new vehicles now offer an auxiliary jack plug to easily connect your media player directly to your car stereo system. Additionally, many new models now even offer streaming bluetooth to connect not only your mobile phone but to stream all audio including music and podcasts from smart phones such as blackberries and I thought.
Windows Speech RecognitionAnother device that can facilitate dictation while you’re driving on your commute is a digital voice recorder. Most of the smart phone applications that turned text to voice require a live connection to the internet either by 3G or WI-FI. Sometimes that is not practical. A portable handheld digital voice recorder is lightweight, easy to use, offers a long battery life, and usually synchs to your computer and converts to text very easily. Most of them have a built in microphone, or you can have the option to use an external microphone connected to the device. Just as in the case of the voice-to-text smart phone applications, a digital voice recorder will aid you in collecting your verbal thoughts, to do list, or even content creation, and convert your spoken words to text for easy manipulation on your computer later.
Another very convenient and flexible option that allows you to convert voice to text while driving on your commute is to use either your laptop or netbook to receive dictation and convert your voice to text. Certainly, carrying your laptop computer to and from work on your commute can be cumbersome, however this option requires you to buy no additional hardware or software. The most flexible option, and a method that we prefer to use, is to simply carry your small 2-pound, 10-inch, netbook and use it to convert your spoken words to text. Netbooks advertise ridiculously long battery life, are ultra portable, and can convert your voice right to a wordpad or Microsoft Word compatible document. There are a slew of the voice to text programs available for the PC or Mac. Most of them are relatively expensive. However there is a completely free option available to you that works just as well as the expensive software. Microsoft’s XP, Vista, and Windows7 operating systems all offer native voice to text functionality built right into the operating system. The feature is called Microsoft Windows “Speech Recognition”. To find it simply go to your windows icon in the lower left of your desktop click on it and enter the words “speech recognition” and the little search box. We’ve found this nifty piece of free software to be very accurate, very easy to use, and it’s absolutely free!
Synchronize your Calendar and Address Books
To make the most of your productivity tools on your smart phones during your commute or anytime you’re away from your desk, make sure you have synched up all the necessary pieces of information such as your address book and calendar. There are many free and built in applications that help you synchronize your contacts list or address book from your desktop computer, laptop computer, and smart phone. By carrying all your contacts with you wherever you go, a quick phone call while driving on your commute can be done to any of your business contacts or family and friends. Additionally, if you synchronize all of your contacts email addresses as well, you can knock out a quick email on your commute as well whether by typing on a keyboard or using a voice-to-text application. Similarly, there are many free and built in applications that allow you to synchronize your calendars from work PC to personal PC to smart phone. Many people are shifting to cloud computing and are keeping their calendars in a virtual world such as a Google calendar. There are even free applications to synchronize your Google calendars to your smart phones as well.
Set up Numerous Email Accounts on your Blackberry or Smart Phone
Many people do not have extensive IT support whether they be self-employed or part of a small business. You can set up your Blackberry email client to connect to numerous email accounts. So, instead of having one email account for your worker home PC and a separate email account for your Blackberry and then yet another separate email account for personal or home use, you can avoid having to forward emails from device to computer by simply having your smart phone connect to several email accounts. Additionally this can be a timesaver because it can allow you to browse, preview, and prioritize emails by quickly scanning you’re smart phone inbox during your commute.
Even if you are unable to compose an e-mail response on your commute, a quick scan of your inbox can give you a feel for what you need to do that evening or the next morning. Make sure if you’re Blackberry smart phone is connecting to an email account that is also being connected to from other computer sources, you configure your device to connect via IMAP. This configuration allows your smart phone device to check emails, read them, and even respond to them, but leaves a copy in the actual email account’s proper inbox. This that allows you to see the email traffic on your computer’s email client at home or at work. This is the best way to avoid losing any emails and forgetting which device has a certain email and accidentally missing vital correspondence.
If you have a wireless internet connection in your home, you should check out our section on how to secure your wireless network for detailed instructions and advice on data encryption and wireless router security.